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Activists buy into boardroom
Home The News Activists buy into boardroom

4:00 AM Wednesday May 26, 2010

DES MOINES - An animal rights group known for sending out scantily clad demonstrators and using other provocative stunts to protest against fur trading, has gained influence in boardrooms by buying company stock.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals has shareholdings in at least 80 companies, including McDonald's and Kraft. It hopes to influence their animal welfare policies on such things as how chickens are slaughtered or buying pork from suppliers that keep pregnant sows in small crates.

By buying stock, Peta is able to present its ideas directly to officials and other shareholders, many of whom could otherwise pay little attention to the group.

Peta tries to negotiate agreements with companies behind closed doors, but if that fails, the group submits shareholder resolutions with its proposed changes at shareholder meetings.

Companies don't always change their policies, but Peta's Ashley Byrne said the effort had paid off. After Peta bought stock, Safeway, Ruby Tuesday, Sonic and Burger King agreed to give purchasing preference to suppliers that abided by what the group said were more humane rules, such as not confining chicken and hogs in small cages, she said.

In many cases, shareholders were horrified when they learned of some of the production methods used by their companies' suppliers.

"Many shareholders are average people who are compassionate and who don't want to be supporting practices that are inhumane," she said.

Meridith Hammond, a spokeswoman for Ruby Tuesday, said the company was "pleased to co-operate with Peta and are grateful for their advice, help with resources, and information about suppliers".

Burger King said it was committed to "maintaining open-dialogue with Peta and various other animal welfare experts". Kraft Foods wouldn't comment on Peta, but said all shareholders were free to express their opinions to management and the board.

Byrne said Peta's attempt to work from within companies didn't signal an end to its more visible protests aimed at improving the condition of animals and encouraging people to stop eating meat.

Hayagreeva Rao, a professor of organisational behaviour at Stanford University, said Peta ran the risk of alienating some supporters by working with companies while also protesting against their actions.

Byrne doubted Peta supporters would object, arguing they were focused on getting results.

- AP

Last Updated (Monday, 23 August 2010 02:24)

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First Posting 25-03-2010 06:51:39 RoyRogers59